Raiding Big Meat; Arresting the Wrong People

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

You’d think the 290 Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, 2 Israelis and 4 Ukrainians arrested and detained in Postville, Iowa on May 12 were working at a call center.

Instead of knockers, stickers, bleeders, tail rippers, flankers, gutters, sawers, and plate boners at the nation’s largest supplier of kosher beef, Agriprocessors, you’d think they were wearing demure headsets and taking overnight 800-number orders in particle board cubicles.

Reports describe the shock and awe raid–the choppers and hundreds of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents–and the 306 workers charged with possession of a counterfeit identification document, aggravated identity theft and misuse of a Social Security number.

They mention the harsh 5-month prison sentences detainees face, lack of due process and families torn apart–especially "unfair" says Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy in the Des Moines Register, because plant officials haven’t been charged.

Some reports even list Agriprocessors’ rich and varied history of environmental, humane, food safety and worker safety abuses which includes five employee amputations according to OSHA records.

But nowhere do reports mention the reason behind the raid: the only "meat" work Americans are willing to do is tending the barbecue.

This is not the first time Agriprocessors has been in the news.

Four years ago undercover investigators for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) videotaped workers ripping tracheas out of conscious cattle and leaving them to thrash in their own blood on the floor at the same plant.

The investigation moved the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement to condemn Agriprocessors and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to launch its own investigation which found "acts of inhumane slaughter."

Afterwards investigators Hannah and Philip Schein went public with their identity and the fact that they themselves keep kosher–though 70 percent of Agriprocessors meat is not kosher and sold as Iowa Best Beef Brand in Albertson’s Kroger, Shop Rite, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s, Ralph’s, Pathmark and H.E. Butt, probably right next to the dairy case.

Nor is this the first ICE raid at a meat plant in Iowa.

Agents raided a Swift & Co. plant in Marshalltown, Iowa in December 2006 along with Swift plants in five other states, arresting over 1,200 workers.

Agriprocessors’ choice of Postville as headquarters in 1987 which doubled the population of 1,400 reflects the national trend to "move slaughterhouses closer to the corn-fed, rich Midwestern beef," says Stephen G. Bloom, author of Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, and a journalism teacher at the University of Iowa, in a Nieman Watchdog interview this month. "Fewer unions, cheaper land, less transportation costs, less government oversight," are some of the advantages he says.

But even as the system of cheap meat fails and the balance of Postville’s work force heads toward Club Fed for doing the work Americans won’t, no one questions that the nation can’t afford its own meat habit if it enforces its own laws.

So while Iowa Governor Chet Culver says, "I believe it is important that we crack down on illegal immigration. Illegal means illegal" and Postville bloggers submit that illegals "raise our health care costs" and "should go home and come back legally," the real message comes from Marshalltown Mayor Gene Beach.

A year and a half after the raid, he can’t say for sure if Swift–which is back to full production–has hired more undocumented workers reports KCRG-TV. But in the surrounding community Mayor Beach says, "I’m certain there are undocumented workers."

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”